First Aid for the Ailing House

Q: I own a 2,500-square-foot house in Delaware that was built in the fall of 2007. The area over the garage is a wide-open storage area. Daylight can be seen around the edge of the roof where the soffits are located. There is a ridge vent on all the various roofs on the house. Ridge vents and soffit vents are the only aids for ventilation.

It gets very hot in the storage area in the summer. I placed a thermometer about six feet off the floor. The roof peak is 15 feet high. On a 95-degree sunny day I got readings of 120-122 degrees Fahrenheit in the storage area. I feel it is too hot for household items and clothing, particularly leather and furs, with a 27-degree difference from the outdoor temperature.

I went on the internet and searched roof structures and found a site that said industry standards for an attic storage area should be 10 to 12 degrees higher than the outside temperature -- it didn't specify a sunny day versus a cloudy day. Is that an accurate assessment? If not, what is the correct differential between outside and attic temperature?

I discussed this with the builders, and they said that they were unsure of any standards, but that the design should be sufficient.

What would be a good fix to cool down the storage area? Installing a roof vent fan? Enlarging the soffit vents? Each soffit vent is about six inches wide and three feet long. Or is there another solution? I thank you in advance for any help you can give me. -- via email

A: I don't know of any standards stipulating an acceptable degree differential between the attic's temperature in a storage area and the outside ambient air.

You mention the size of the soffit vents, which tells me that they are not continuous. How far apart are they? Soffit vents should run the full length of the overhangs and must match the ridge vents' net free ventilation area (NFVA). But this should not be an issue in an open storage space.

One way to reduce the temperature of the attic now is to staple an aluminum reflective film to the bottom of the trusses. It will be somewhat of a challenge because of the web connections, but it should be manageable. You should be able to get aluminum reflective film in building-supply houses.

Another way is to install light-colored shingles when the time for replacement comes.

Q: Can you tell me how to dig a dry well to stop rain from flooding in through my basement window? I have written to you in the past regarding plumbing problems, and your answers have given me excellent results. -- via email

A: If the flooding is due to rain filling the well in heavy downpours or from the section of a roof without gutters above the well, the easiest way to deal with it is to put a clear plastic cover over the well.

If the problem is because there is a flat or negative grade around the well, and water is entering the well at the joint of the well and the foundation, the grade deficiency should be taken care of by raising it to slope gently away from the house, making sure that there is no way for the water to leak through the joints with the house.

If the top of the well is too low to raise the grade, you can buy metal sections matching semicircular or rectangular wells in building-supply houses.

Or you can raise the well up to four inches by digging a small trench around the exterior of the metal well and setting paver bricks upright, soldier-like, in the trench.

The bricks are 8 inches long, so 4 inches will be buried in the raised grade. Tamp the soil to hold the bricks in place.

If the problem is caused by the soil being too high inside the well, dig out the soil as much as you can and refill the space with stones to within a foot of the bottom of the window.

Ideally, a drainpipe should have been installed leading to some form of drainage, such as footing drains, but if the soil is sandy or loamy, this may not be necessary.

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